Video autoplay is when a video begins playing automatically. If this is enabled on the page, clicking on the link to it from a laptop or desktop will cause the video to begin playing as soon as the page is loaded. This creates a seamless, easy experience for the viewer.

With a mobile device, however, the viewer has to take an additional step. He has to activate the video itself before it will play. Just loading the page won’t do the trick.  And here is the question: Videos can autoplay on desktop but why can you not get them to autoplay on mobile websites when the page loads?  The reason that video autoplay doesn’t work is simple.  The feature is deliberately disabled in both iOS and Android for mobile devices.

The developers intentionally disable autoplay on mobile devices in order to protect user’s bandwidth, to save mobile users money. Many data providers charge based on the amount of data consumed, so the OS developers decided it was in the best interest of the user to not have a video automatically begin playing when the page loaded so it would not start racking up data charges. Instead mobile web videos require the user to click them to start.  Autoplay is disabled to keep the user from being charged for a video he doesn’t want to watch. Video preload is disabled for the same reason. In Safari on iOS (for all devices, including iPad), where the user may be on a cellular network and be charged per data unit, preload and autoplay are disabled. No data is loaded until the user initiates it. iOS not only prevents autoplay but also preloading the video until the user initiates it. Android has disabled autoplay in versions 4.1+.

This is not ideal for users, since it makes video slower to load and play even when the user is on a wi-fi connection rather than a mobile phone plan. On the other hand, users would probably complain a lot more about being billed for data that they didn’t want to download or use. So, video autoplay is disabled deliberately on mobile devices to save consumers money. It has an obvious benefit for users, but advertisers also like it due to the fact that since the user initates the starting of the video they are most likely choosing to view it or paying attention to it.